The Long Road Home

Still catching up on our travels. This post will bring us from Washington state all the way to our home base in Florida, with a couple changes of plans along the way.

We had a pretty quiet trip all the way from Washington state to Kentucky. Here are pictures of most every stop along the way.

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Night 1 – Aug. 18 – Spokane KOA, Spokane, WA

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Night 2 – Aug. 19 – Deer Lodge KOA, Deer Lodge, MT

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Night 3 – Aug. 20 – Hardin KOA, Hardin, MT

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Night 4 – Aug. 21 – Douglas KOA, Douglas, WY

On night 5, Aug. 22, we stayed in the Strasburg/East Denver KOA in Strasburg, Colorado. We failed to take a picture of that site, but you can insert whatever generic picture of an RV in a crowded campground with gravel sites and barely any vegetation.

Also, starting in Wyoming and continuing through Colorado and Kansas, we had a lot of windy travel. It wasn’t terrible (in other words, not too gusty), but it was fairly strong and will play a part later in our story.

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Night 6 – Aug. 23 – Wakeeney KOA, Wakeeney, Kansas

Note the water puddles in the above photo. We just missed the rain, chasing it across eastern Colorado and western Kansas.

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Night 7 – Aug. 24 – Country Gardens RV Park, Odessa, Missouri

We started catching up with the rain by our stop in Odessa, but it wasn’t too bad. It had moved on by the time we got there and it was a pretty dry night.

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Night 8 – Aug. 25 – Shawnee Forest Campground, Vienna, Illinois

We drove in pouring rain most all day on our way through Missouri. St. Louis was the worst – driving through downtown on I-70 through pouring rain. We were fortunate that it was Sunday and not too much traffic. Still, it made for a rather tiring driving day. We were glad that the rain stopped long enough for us to set up the trailer without it raining on us.

We rolled into Kentucky on Monday the 26th. We had a two-night stay booked in Lexington at the Kentucky Horse Park. There were a limited number of spaces available. We later found out that there were two different horse shows and a dog show all happening there both during and towards the end of the week.

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Our truck was due for an oil change so we called ahead to a dealer in Frankfort, Kentucky (about 25 miles away) and set up an appointment to have that done on Tuesday morning.

On Monday night (after another rainy day), we were getting ready to go out and see Malcolm’s brother playing with a band in Lexington after meeting him for dinner. Val pulled out a box with shoes that she was going to wear for the evening and found that the box had a little water on top of it. The box was in a cubby built into the closet in the front cap of our trailer.

We felt around and didn’t really feel much else in the way of water, so Malcolm decided there wasn’t much we could do at the moment but he would climb up on the roof in the morning and check it out. Fortunately, the rain was almost done (just spotty showers here and there). We headed on out to enjoy our evening.

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Big Band Music by Al DiMartino and his DOJO band.

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Visiting with Al DiMartino (left) and Malcolm’s brother David (middle – holding sax)

After we got back to the trailer, Val heard a funny noise in the bedroom and found that water was dripping from the ceiling wall outlet for the bedroom TV onto a hat she had sitting on the dresser. Malcolm pulled the outlet cover and some water dripped out and then quit. We left the outlet hanging out for the night. A trip up top was definitely needed the next morning.

The appointment for getting the oil changed was at 9:00 and we needed to leave about 8:30 to get there, so Malcolm climbed up on the roof before that to assess what our problem was. That’s when he found that our roof membrane had come loose and lifted while we were traveling – most likely helped along with the strong wind across the mid-western portion of our trip.

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The roof material pulled back from the center of the front cap, leaving a big gap for water to enter the front cap from above. That explained the water in the closet (directly below this seam).

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The air needed somewhere to escape, so it managed to pull the roof material out from under the front air conditioner and proceed to tear some flaps in the material (one flap was completely gone). This is where the water probably entered to travel in our ceiling to the electrical outlet. The plan now became a trip to an RV dealer for appropriate materials to repair the roof after the oil change.

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The forecast called for a chance of showers late in the afternoon (which, fortunately, did not happen), so time was of the essence to fix the pulled seam and the hole in the roof material. We stopped by an RV dealer and picked up a roll of Eternabond seam tape and a tube of self-leveling sealant. Malcolm patched up the hole in the roof material in front of the air conditioner with several strips of overlapped Eternabond tape and sealed the front cap seam with the self-leveling sealant.

We wanted to give the repair a good chance to set before we hit the road, so we managed to book two more days in a different spot at the Horse Park campground (there were literally about seven spots left).

Overnight on Tuesday, Malcolm realized that he had patched the roof and it shouldn’t leak if it rained. However, the roof material was still loose and stretched. If we hit the road with it fixed as it was, the roof material would probably lift and tear up what he had fixed already. Therefore, we needed some way to keep the roof material from billowing up on the way home (a two day trip).

The initial though was to wrap a couple ratchet straps around the front of the trailer and tighten them down. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it would get us home. As Malcolm looked on the internet for alternative ways to hold down the roof material for travel, he ran across someone in a forum post that mentioned that they had a dealer screw down some stiff material across their roof in several strips to at least get them home. The also mentioned that temporary fix worked for several more years before they sold their trailer.

Malcolm had an idea, so the next morning while we waited for check-out time to move our rig from one spot to another (giving whoever was there time to leave), we went back to the RV dealer to get some more Eternabond tape and self-leveling sealant. We also went to Lowe’s and picked up some metal pipe strap and some wood screws and washers.

Malcolm screwed down several strips across the roof and covered each one with Eternabond tape. It isn’t pretty and really wasn’t well sealed (yet) as Malcolm doubled over the “flaps” on the roof material and pinned it down with the strips, but it worked well enough to get us on down the road. Malcolm checked on it several times during the trip to make sure it wasn’t pulling up. We were also blessed with dry weather.

The following photos may make you shake your head and maybe there were better ways to do this, but hey, sometimes you gotta do what you can to get home.

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To make up for our extra day in Kentucky (we cancelled the second day of our second spot – feeling comfortable enough with the repair to continue on) we planned only one stop on the way back to Florida – in Cordele, Georgia.

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Cordele KOA – Cordele, Georgia

We were hoping our roof patch would hold tight so we could just head on home and it did. But, we didn’t quite head on home. We made it to Cordele just fine. However, there was this matter of hurricane Dorian.

The evening we stopped in Cordele, Dorian was still heading west and strengthening into a category 4 hurricane. The track at that time was indicating it would cut straight through Florida as a category 4 or 5 hurricane, putting our home right in the center of the action. We made the decision that evening to head over to our son’s house in Panama City, Florida, and wait out the hurricane. There was still a possibility that the hurricane might even hit that area, so we were all on alert.

We parked next to David’s house to wait out the storm and see what was going to happen. We brought a bunch of stuff inside to sleep in the guest room, ironically enough on the couch bed that we had taken out of our trailer and donated to our son. We plugged the trailer into an outside outlet on David’s house to keep the refrigerator running.

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While we were at David’s, we celebrated Malcolm’s 60th birthday. Originally, we were going to be home for the birthday and had a couple nights booked at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. We cancelled that reservation when we decided to avoid the area due to the hurricane.

We had a nice dinner out at a pizza place with David and one of his roommates and later had birthday cake at home.

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While we were at David’s house, his next door neighbor offered to let us use his 50 amp electrical hookup that he had run for his own RV (but wasn’t ready to use himself just yet). We hooked up the last couple nights were were there and ran the air conditioner to keep the rig cool. We also stayed in the trailer the last night we were there as the couch bed was making Malcolm’s back hurt.

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With hurricane Dorian now heading up the east coast and Florida being out of danger, we said our goodbyes and headed on home on Thursday, September 5th.

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Forgot to mention that while we were at David’s house, Malcolm went out and bought another tube of sealant to seal the areas of the roof where the roof material was doubled over under the tape to keep water from finding its way in those areas. For now, the roof seems well sealed.

We contacted a company that comes out and rolls on new rubber roof sealant and got an estimate of $6,500 to fix it. We’re waiting to decide on how to go about having it repaired long term, but for now the temporary fix is holding fine and we don’t plan on going anywhere with the trailer the rest of the year (unless another hurricane heads this way).

 

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Montana Rains

July 12 to 13, 2019 – Livingston KOA, Livingston, Montana

Another uneventful drive today through the rest of Wyoming and into Montana. We had warm, sunny weather the whole way here. Our site faces the campground office, so we can see everyone coming in. Also, the Beartooth Mountains are very visible behind us.

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Since we got in a bit early (around 2:00 PM), we hooked everything up so we could do some laundry in the trailer. We also sat outside under our awning and enjoyed watching the world go by for a while. Malcolm walked down to see the Yellowstone River rushing by (the camping cabins back up to the river).

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While we were cooking dinner, a storm rolled in. It hailed for a few minutes – mostly pea-sized hail, then settled into a steady rain with some occasional thunder. The temperature cooled down from the upper-80s into the mid-60s. Should be a chilly morning tomorrow.

While sitting outside, Malcolm called our next stop – the only one we didn’t pre-arrange a reservation for – only to find out they are full tomorrow. There is some type of festival going on in the Idaho panhandle area or Spokane, Washington area that has all the campgrounds through that stretch booked full. We finally found something a good ways west of Spokane, which means we have a nearly 500 mile drive tomorrow. Fortunately, that is the last stop before we reach our destination in Gig Harbor, WA, so we’ll have a shorter drive on Sunday.

 

Heading Back East, Part 1

Dates: July 30 to 31, 2018

Location: Spokane KOA, Spokane, Washington

Our first stop on the way back east was at the Spokane KOA. The trip through Washington wasn’t too bad. Leaving at the end of rush hour on  Monday wasn’t terrible, traffic-wise. Washington was still a bit smoky from forest fires, but not near as bad as last year.

The only small thing we ran into was that the site the KOA assigned to us was (still) occupied by an RV (we were in well past check-in time). We called the office and told them a couple nearby sites that were empty and they reassigned us to one of those. We left the truck hooked up to the trailer since we had recently filled the tank and didn’t need to run any errands.

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Site at Spokane KOA

Dates: July 31 to Aug. 1, 2018

Location: Deer Lodge KOA, Deer Lodge, Montana

Our second stop along the way was our favorite little KOA in the middle of Deer Lodge, Montana. We’ve apparently been here enough that the owner remembered Malcolm’s name. We unhooked here and Malcolm headed downtown to pick up a couple grocery items and fill the truck with fuel. He also did a little photography while out on his errands.

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Deer Lodge KOA

Dates: Aug. 1 to 4, 2018

Location: Red Lodge KOA, Red Lodge, Montana

We stopped in Red Lodge, Montana for three nights so we could do some sight-seeing for a couple days. We stayed in the same KOA that we attended a rally in last year.

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Red Lodge KOA Site

The rally organizers, Tom and Sherry Egenes, still have their respective businesses in downtown Red Lodge, so we stopped in to visit both of them our first full day there. We also did some shopping while we were there. Lunch was at the local pizza place.

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After a little more shopping, we headed to Red Lodge Ales so Malcolm could sample some of their beers so he would know which ones he wanted to pick up at the store. We also picked up a couple souvenirs while we were there.

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That evening, we drove over to Absarokee and visited with Malcolm’s cousin Sue and her husband Rich. We had a fun visit and met them at the Cowboy Bar restaurant for dinner. We said our goodbyes there and we headed back to the campground.

The next day we took a day trip with the truck (but not the trailer) over the Beartooth Highway. We drove about 38 miles of it to the Top of the World gift shop. We bought a couple souvenirs and turned around to head back to Red Lodge.

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Malcolm took a lot of pictures with the big camera. They are posted in his gallery [HERE].

Once back in town, we had a late lunch at the Red Lodge Ales brewery (downtown was really busy) and did a little more shopping downtown. We also picked up some groceries at the store and headed back to the trailer for the evening. We stayed in and ate dinner at the trailer.

Dates: Aug. 4 to 5, 2018

Location: Buffalo KOA, Buffalo, Wyoming

We left Red Lodge and headed on to Buffalo, Wyoming, staying in the KOA there. The only trip out we made was to fill up the truck with fuel nearby and then walked through the store at the KOA office, picking up some postcards.

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Buffalo KOA Site

Malcolm wandered around and dipped his toes in the creek that runs behind the campground (cold, as expected). He also went to mail out some postcards we had written to different people. On the way to drop them off at the front office, he found these two young rabbits (and later, their mother), frolicking in the grass near the main building.

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As we were hitching up the trailer to leave, Malcolm found this painted rock nestled in the trunk of the tree next to our site. On the back was instructions on logging your find on a Facebook page (Casper Rocks). You can keep the rock, or re-hide it either in the same spot, or, as we did, in a new spot. We thought the rock might enjoy a trip to Wall, South Dakota, so we took it with us.

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Painted Rock find

Dates: Aug. 5 to 6, 2018

Location: Sleepy Hollow Campground & RV Park, Wall, South Dakota

We had an uneventful drive to Wall, South Dakota. There were hundreds of motorcycles on the road (and in Wall) due to the nearby yearly bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.

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Teepee found at most South Dakota rest stops

We set up in the Sleepy Hollow Campground, which is only a couple blocks from the famous Wall Drug complex. While we could have walked over, we elected to drive over in the truck so that we could subsequently run by the gas station and fuel up while we were out. We bought a couple souvenirs and did some Christmas shopping before heading out to the gas station, then back to the trailer.

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Sleepy Hollow Campground

Malcolm found a place to hide the painted rock in the campground. On the way back to the trailer, he was stopped by one of our neighbors who was interested in both our Florida license plate and the University of Kentucky sticker on the back window of the trailer. As they talked, Malcolm found out that the other gentleman and his wife live in the next RV resort south of ours in Florida (less than a mile away). He also grew up in Kentucky about an hour from where Malcolm lived as a child. Small world!

Dates: Aug. 6, 2018

Location: Lake Mitchell Campground, Mitchell, South Dakota

Malcolm had made our reservations here based on three things we expected to do in the area. The first was to get the truck serviced. Based on our mileage, Malcolm saw that we would be in this area about the time the oil change was due and that there was a Ford dealer almost across the street from the campground. As it turns out, the “Change Oil Soon” indicator came on literally 40 miles before we got here.

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Our site at Lake Mitchell Campground

The second reason we chose this stop was that Val wanted to take a day trip to De Smet, where one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homesteads is located. And the final reason was to visit the Corn Palace (again) while we are here.

We got set up here about 3:00. Malcolm called the Ford dealer to see what day we could bring the truck in for its service. They indicated that they had an opening an hour later at 4:00, so we took that appointment and Malcolm headed over to sit at the dealer while they did the work (about 45 minutes).

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Old inventory in the showroom

With that out of the way, we plan on heading up to De Smet tomorrow and the Corn Palace the day after tomorrow.

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Lake Mitchell

From here, we’ll be driving pretty much on through to Nashville (with appropriate overnight stops along the way).

 

Smooth Sailing On West

Dates: June 9 to 11, 2018

Location: Lafayette KOA, Scott, Louisiana

We ended up staying through to Monday morning. On Sunday, we met our friends Andy and Joanna Grimes for lunch since we missed coming on over on Sunday to camp with them.

On Monday morning at 7:30 Malcolm called the local Goodyear dealer and found that they had two tires in stock that we needed for our trailer. They told us to come on over and they’d take care of us, so we packed up the trailer, hitched up and headed over.

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Ready for new shoes

They had us in and out the door in a little over an hour, so we continued on our way north and west pretty much on schedule. The plan is to get two more tires put on in Washington to match the new Goodyears on the left side if nothing happens along the way (it didn’t).

Dates: June 11 to 12, 2018

Location: Texas Rose RV Park, Tyler, Texas

We found this little RV park near the interstate in Tyler, Texas. Malcolm called ahead and talked to the owner who happened to be out of town at the time, but gave us instructions to check ourselves in and pay for our spot with the envelope drop. Using our Passport America card, the price was only $20 for the night.

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The campground was a bit older and had lots of longer term residents, but it was kept very neat. For the sites on our circle, the campground even provided a fairly new charcoal grill and a plastic tote with charcoal and lighter fluid in it if you wanted to cook out. Nice little touch.

Dates: June 12 to 13, 2018

Location: Cedar Valley RV Park, Guthrie, Oklahoma

We stayed in this campground in Guthrie (no pictures). Their Passport America rate was $18 for the night. It was a quiet park, but rather old and decently kept. It was fine for an overnight.

Dates: June 13 to 14, 2018

Location: WaKeeney KOA, Wakeeney, Kansas

This KOA is kept very neat. They serve ice cream in the evenings and offer pancake and sausage breakfast (we took advantage of both) for a reasonable cost. They’ve been filling up every night during the week as there isn’t much else close to the interstate through western Kansas.

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Dates: June 14 to 15, 2018

Location: Fort Collins North / Wellington KOA, Wellington, Colorado

This KOA was fairly nice, as well. We had a nice, wide concrete slab to park on. When we were rolling in, there were storm clouds over the front range of the Rockies. They eventually blew in, bringing lots of wind, but no rain.

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Malcolm found a couple friends in the pasture adjacent to the side of the campground where the tent sites are. Several of the campers were enjoying our visitors.

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Dates: June 15 to 16, 2018

Location: Buffalo KOA, Buffalo, Wyoming

Due to re-scheduling our stay here and then scheduling it back, we ended up with the last available site that would fit our rig – a really nice patio site. It was only $6 more than what we would have paid for the site we originally booked.

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It was a little windy as we arrived here and it was blowing in cool weather. The temperature was around 70 degrees when we arrived and fairly quickly dropped into the low 60’s. Overnight, it was around 50 degrees. We ended up turning on the furnace in the morning. We also did a little antique shopping in downtown Buffalo.

Dates: June 16 to 17, 2018

Location: Deer Lodge KOA, Deer Lodge, Montana

When we arrived in Deer Lodge, it was around 50 degrees and drizzly rain. It stayed like that all night. We had the furnace on overnight.

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Snow on top of the nearby mountains

Deer Lodge is one of our regular stops. The owner came out and gave us a hug when we arrived. It’s not much of a park, but she keeps the place very neat and tidy.

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Dates: June 17 to 18, 2018

Location: Spokane KOA, Spokane, Washington

When we arrived in Spokane, the temperature and weather had improved considerably. It was sunny and in the 70’s when we got there.

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After we got there, we contacted our friends Tim and Emily Rohrer. They were in the area and agreed to meet us for dinner. In addition to Tim and Emily, Tim’s parents, Bonnie and Doug, also joined us. They recently just started full-timing and were traveling with Tim and Emily.

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Dates: June 18 to ???, 2018

Location: Washington State Fair Campground, Puyallup, Washington

On Monday, we rolled into Puyallup and set up at the fairgrounds campground.

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Now it’s time to visit family. We’re actually keeping the grandchildren for a couple days as Elizabeth and Cole are out of town. Elizabeth flies back in on Thursday.

The trip here from Florida was 3,435 miles. There are more direct routes than what we took, but we wanted to visit folks along the I-10 corridor, so that added a couple hundred miles or so. The following map shows the approximate route here (note the other trip earlier this year to Tennessee and Kentucky is on the same map).

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Eastward to a Rally

Location: Spokane KOA, Spokane, Washington

Dates: Sept. 5 to 6, 2017

We left Gig Harbor with our ash-covered truck and trailer around 9:00 in the morning. The forest fire smoke grew greater as we crossed Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 east of Seattle. It got somewhat better through the state of Washington but was still bad enough we left the air conditioner on recirculate.

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At a fuel stop west of Spokane, we saw Mr. Peanut’s vehicle parked at the gas pumps. Malcolm had to go inside to pay for fuel but didn’t see Mr. Peanut around anywhere.

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We arrived at the Spokane KOA in the afternoon. Spokane was having some pretty smoky skies, as well. Their smoke was from western Montana fires.

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We ate dinner out at Panera Bread and stopped by the store to pick up a couple items, fueling the truck up on the way back to the trailer.

Location: Deer Lodge KOA, Deer Lodge, Montana

Dates: Sept. 6 to 7, 2017

Before we left Spokane, Malcolm called our neighbor in Florida as we were getting emails from our Florida neighborhood indicating that volunteers were helping lash down any loose items before hurricane Irma came ashore. Our neighbor couldn’t help, but sent someone who was volunteering and was helping him. They came over and put a couple items away for us.

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We had a smoky drive from Spokane to Deer Lodge, Montana. The smoke was especially bad through the mountains in Idaho and on into the west end of Montana. The smoke was thinner in Deer Lodge.

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We just left the trailer hooked to the truck at Deer Lodge and just took it easy for the evening.

Location: Red Lodge KOA, Red Lodge, Montana

Dates: Sept. 7 to 10

On Thursday, September 7, we drove from Deer Lodge to Red Lodge, Montana to the KOA there. We were attending the Montana Chapter rally for the Heartland Owners Club. This was the Montana chapter’s first rally.

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Right after we got the trailer set up and the air conditioners running, we headed over to the chapter leader’s site to enjoy a meet and greet with others that had already arrived. We also had a pitch-in dinner later in the evening, with the club (including Malcolm) grilling up hot dogs and hamburgers.

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On Friday morning, many of us drove into Red Lodge and ate breakfast at the Red Lodge Cafe. The food was very good and there was plenty of it.

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After breakfast, we headed back to the campground (it is about 4 miles north of town). Malcolm rode with several others to Woodbine Falls for a photo expedition and hike. Val stayed at the trailer and did some sewing and visited others that had stayed behind.

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The hike back to the falls was a bit strenuous, and we were at around 5,600 ft. elevation. But the views were worth it (despite it being smoky again).

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The actual falls are very narrow and tall. Malcolm didn’t get the best vantage point to photograph the top part of the falls but did get some good shots with his big camera (these photos are from his phone).

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When the falls group got back into town, it was time for the 2:00 brewery tour at Red Lodge Ales. Val drove into town to meet Malcolm there. Malcolm skipped the tour since he hadn’t had lunch and we ate something there at the brewery while others took the tour.

After the brewery stop, we headed over to Absarokee, Montana, about a 35 mile drive west of Red Lodge. We visited with Malcolm’s cousin Sue and her husband, Rich. We’ve been trying to stop through and visit them every year that we’ve been passing through the area and just haven’t matched up schedules. This year we gave them advance warning and called a few days in advance.

We talked for a while at their house then headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Afterwards, we returned to their house and talked for a little longer and took a selfie of the four of us.

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After that visit, we headed back to the campground, arriving after dark.

On Saturday morning, everyone was gathered again for a pancake breakfast with all the trimmings and pitch-in sides.

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After the breakfast, a group headed out in vehicles to drive the Beartooth Highway. Malcolm was torn on whether to do that or to walk around downtown Red Lodge and chose the latter. We had a great visit in downtown. They have a lot of nice shops and restaurants. We found some gift items for Christmas to put back for later and a couple items for ourselves.

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We also stocked up on some Red Lodge ales for Malcolm.

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After taking our goodies back to the trailer, we changed clothes and headed back downtown to the pizza place where the final rally dinner and prize giveaway happened. We all had great pizza and salad and many prizes were given away.

Two prizes were auctioned off, with all the auction proceeds going into the Montana Chapter funds to help offset costs for this rally and future rallies. Malcolm was the winning bidder on this nice Yeti cooler. He bought it for half of the price that Amazon was selling it for. The other prize that we didn’t bid on was a nice smoker grill.

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After the dinner, everyone headed back to the campground for margaritas and great conversation. We stuck around for that for a while before heading back to the trailer to start packing up to leave on Sunday. We said goodbyes just in case we missed anyone the next morning.

On Sunday morning, we took our time getting ready to leave and said goodbyes to many of the folks that were trickling out all morning. We eventually hit the road around 9:30 am heading towards our next stop in Gillette, Wyoming.